Behavioral Approach to Leadership

“Leadership is both a process and a property. As a process, leadership involves the use of non-coercive influence. As a property, leadership is the set of characteristics attributed to someone who is perceived to use influence successfully.” (Moorhead and Griffin)

I would like to start by saying that despite numerous definitions leadership is the creative process of leading people, making them do what perhaps they do not want to do, but do it with pleasure. Leadership has numerous approaches and thus is represented by numerous theories starting with the theory of traits and behaviors and ending with the modern contingency theory and the transformational approaches. The following essay will explore behavioral theories in greater detail.

One should not forget that leadership is related to motivation and interpersonal behaviour within the organization. Effective leadership involves delegation of authority to the subordinates in a dynamic manner. Leadership assists the managers in the preparation of the teams for the better achievement.

When looking at any organization, it is of importance to note that there are some people who would show some ‘leadership signs’ while others won’t. Still, despite the common belief, leadership does not always have to be associated with the organizational conflict but rather the special wit of people like Gandhi, Napoleon, Lenin, or George Washington. These people make us understand that there are numerous instances when the decisions and participation of one important person is vital. These people have some outstanding qualities that allow them to know what can be done, when and how.

Leadership, as one can say involves the following four things –

  1. Influencing other people.
  2. Some leaders and some must be followers.
  3. Usually leaders come to front in time of crisis and present innovative solution.
  4. Leaders know what they want to achieve and why. They possess vision.

The behavioral theory of leadership was created after the followers of the trait leadership theory could not find enough traits to explain why some people made good leaders and why some could only be followers. The most logical way was to explore how the leaders behaved in their daily activities and especially towards their followers. Thus, behavioral theory is all about leadership rather than leaders and this theory would be most important in the late 50s early 60s in the USA and Europe.

The leadership scientists would group different behavioral patterns and activities together and then put a label on them calling them styles. Such grouping the behaviors into styles and then making a judgment became rather popular in the mid 1960s, with Blake and Mouton’s graphical managerial grid (we will discuss it later in the essay) grouping being the most popular. The behavioral theory was only limited by one’s imagination and the abundance of schemes, charts, graphs and models would appear in the business world.

One should also add here that despite numerous names, labels and regroupings, the main schemes of behavioral leadership are the following –

  1. Concern for task. This behavior of leaders is represented by tangible and calculable achievement linked to improved productivity, organization of labor and motivation of personnel.
  2. Concern for people. This behavior of leaders is represented by the tangible concern for people who work in the organization and desire to establish proper relations rather than to treat them as units of production and corporate overhead. In this manner the leader establishes the “old boy club” where each worker would become very committed. Thus, if needed, each worker would do even more to make other ‘friends’ happy.
  3. Directive leadership. This behavioral leadership style is represented by the leaders taking frequently decisions for other, and expecting the others rather bluntly follow the instructions.
  4. Participative leadership. This behavioral leadership style is represented by the leader’s desire to engage people to the task and increase their commitment by allowing them to make decisions for the company they work for.

As a rule the leadership theoreticians would use any two of the four general leadership styles shown above, rename them, plot them on some graph and then establish mixed leadership styles. For instance Blake and Mouton 1964, would plot concern for task against concern for people. McGregor in 1960 would contrast directive leadership with participative leadership in his Theory X and Theory Y.

Many others would use other combinations and plot other leadership styles and schemes based on the leadership behavior.

Speaking about some practical application, it is believed that those leaders engaged in participative and people-oriented leadership, can enjoy better employee motivation and satisfaction.

One should nevertheless remember that there exist numerous inconsistencies in the theories thus making it rather difficult to say which style of leadership is superior to others and which group works better under which leadership. Some leadership theorists would attempt to unite the traits theory of leadership with the behavioral theory of leadership and get the answer there. One still believes that the differences in groups and people would certainly make more than one leadership style work well. Thus, it would be silly to assume that the same leadership style would do well for an e-commerce company, terrorist group, hospital, group of friends and police. Thus, each style besides dry and cut theory is also affected by a particular situation, other employees or an organization .

There has been an extensive research which proved that no single leadership style will work effectively in all situations with absolutely all people involved, thus it became apparent that a particular situation is responsible for a given success of leadership. Some of the theorists would take a look at the numerous processes that contribute to the leaders’ emergence. Oftentimes the instances of great crisis and political vacuum contribute to the emergence of leaders. Some have routinely considered the army, political parties and companies as the places where leadership can strive and depend on the nature of work activity .

The most unique view has certainly been considered that everything in the behavioral leadership is determined by a particular context. Yet the majority of theoreticians would consider the style to be a part of the context stating that a particular style would certainly change based on the particular situation (Fiedler, 115). Thus, it became apparent that a particular situation would demand different leadership style from the management if they are to achieve the corporate goals and objectives. Such situational variant certainly means that those leaders who are able to develop an ability to work in different situations (under stress, in a routine environment etc.) should be much respected and treasured by the organization .

Thus, behavioral leadership slowly starts to pick up the contingency approach with the idea that leadership, and its behavior will certainly depend on the certain mix of factors. One of the proponents of this type of leadership, was Mr. Fred Fiedler who believed that a leadership effectiveness and efficiency would depend on the two particular factors:

  1. Leadership style (behavioral)
  2. Degree of freedom permitted by a particular situation.

Here    one      should consider           the       following         things  are-
1.Leader-followers relationship. It is believed and proved as correct that if leaders are liked by their followers they are likely to get more support from the others.
2.Task structure. If the tasks can be easily identified and the goals are clear it is likely that the leader will have more success, simply because it would be more understandable for the followers to engage in the productive process.
3.Position power. The leaders in the organization oftentimes make use of the position power, i.e. the power they receive from holding a particular office or a position. If a leader wants to increase his/her power, then she/he should assume a particular position to do that. Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and others would have popularity before assuming their high office, yet only after getting into office, they were able to influence millions.

One should not forget that such models as depicted above allow us to think of what can be done in particular situations. For instance the leader might need to become more directive in time of emergency where a quick response to a situation is vital for the corporate survival and where directive / authoritarian approach would likely yield more results simply because people would do what they are told to, rather than wasting time on independent problem solving on their own (Kouzes, 140).

Mouton and Blake were instrumental in the creation of the two dimensional leadership grid that compared the characteristics of leader to the characteristics of the followers in a particular situation. Hershey and Blanchard, on the other hand would provide another very influential discussion and scientific contribution to leadership by presenting a particular leadership style adapted for a particular situation.

These two authors identified their 4 distinct leadership styles based on the 4 distinct situations as shown below (Goleman, 87):

  1. Telling (involves high task/low relationship behavior). This very style of leadership is characterized by increased direction to subordinates and by increased attention to the corporate goals/objectives. Hershey and Blanchard recommended this style for working with the new staff, or in the situations when there is a great amount of routine and repetitive work that needs to be achieved within a very short time span. Just like the Theory X, this approach states that employees on their own cannot do a good job but need leadership supervision.
  2. Selling (involves high task/high relationship behavior). The leader in this selling style of leadership of Hershey and Blanchard is the one who ‘sells’ his ideas to the followers and makes them ‘buy into’ these ideas. Selling is also called coaching approach to leadership and is used in the situations when the employees are rather motivated and competent to do the job on their own, yet indeed lack maturity to do the job right.
  3. Participating (involves high relationship and low task behaviour). The leader in this participating style of leadership shares the particular decision between the leader and the followers, with the main leadership role being related to proper communication and facilitation of relationship between the team members. The decision making process in this style is shared between the leader and the followers where the leader conducts low direction and high support for the team members. This style of management is used only when the people are competent to do the job yet are not very motivated or mature do get it done. Here decision-making is shared between leaders. Hershey and Blanchard called these people to have moderate to high maturity.
  4. Delegating (involves low relationship/low task behavior between leaders and followers). This style of leadership allows the leader to properly identify the situation, problem or issue and then establish proper responsibility for the followers to carry out that particular task. This leadership style is ideal for the companies that can boast competent and mature people who are motivated to do the job on their own without much authoritarian participation .

I should also note that these different models still possess some controversies and weaknesses in them. Please refer to them below:

  1. These models have North American (US) bias. The current evidence shows that numerous cultural factors applicable to the USA influence leadership styles and the way people act as followers. In other words, not all cultures have the same individualistic approach (vs. collectivistic) as the USA does, not all cultures have the same family values or bureaucratic models, let alone different expectations about the leadership as these behavioral models suggest .
  2. Different leadership patterns are applicable to different genders, while these behavioral strategies note above present unique solutions for men and women. It is believed that females as a rule would have softer leadership styles related to care, nurture and sensuality rather than to ruthless and aggressive search for the implementation of the corporate objectives. Females as a rule stress the importance of relationship while men stress the importance of a task. Still, there are many examples of task oriented females and caring males. Also it is believed that females in the organizations are likely to gain authority only if the company deals with people and relations rather than with some dry figures and statistics.
  3. One should remember that just like Bolman and Deal who wrote about leadership traits, just like Blake and Mouton who created their Grid, so do Hershey and Blanchard all focus upon the immediate relationship between the management and the subordinates and oftentimes fail to note all the structural issues related tot eh company.

Speaking about the Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model, one should remember that this model believes that any situation requires proper leadership model based on the decision making process as shown below (Maxwell, 66):
Autocratic 1 – Any organizational problem can and is resolved only with the information already available. This method is required for routine tasks, low innovation.
Autocratic 2 – Any organizational decision should be supplemented by the additional information which is obtained from group. The leader then decides how the problems should         be        solved.
Consultative 1 – Each problem solving process within organization is done one an individual basis, when the leader communicates with each subordinate individually and thus pays the most attention to each of them.
Consultative 2 – Each problem solving process within organization is done on a group basis, i.e. involving the whole group for a discussion in order to increase the group commitment.
Group 2 – This method is about a group deciding autonomously upon problem, with the leader simply acting as chair. This type of problems solving and leadership is seen in politics           and     at         the       top       corporate            levels.
Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model is based on the consideration of particular seven questions attributable to the problem situation. Usually Vroom-Yetton Leadership Model uses the decision tree where the leader by answering particular standardized questions moves along it and develops the particular leadership solution for his/her situation .

In conclusion I would like to note that the following research paper spoke about the classical leadership theories as represented by Blake and Mouton, Hersey and Blanchard as well as Vroom and Yetton and focusing on particular things like behaviors, situations or traits. In summary one can understand taht leadership is usually identified by a position with leaders being a part of the hierarchy. The majority of leaders indeed are focused on answers and solutions and they serve as the ultimate answer to people who don’t know what to do. Leaders according to the most theories give direction to followers and have a good vision as well as possess numerous qualities that makes them different from others and attacks more followers.